Fri, 30 Jul 2021

The British government maintained its stance on Monday over travellers from France undergoing a 10-day quarantine as it lifted restrictions in England to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic despite rocketing infection rates from the Delta variant.

On the day Boris Johnson's administration implemented its much-hyped Freedom Day, it insisted that visitors from France posed a threat because of the Beta variant of the coronavirus.

Despite data showing that the Beta variant is prevalent in French territories 8,000km away in La Reunion and Mayotte, travellers - including British nationals - will be forced to stay in one location once back in Britain and undergo PCR tests on the second and eighth day of their quarantine.

They will be free to move after proof of a negative test on day eight. They can pay for a test on day five which, if negative will allow them an early release. But they will still have to undergo the test on day eight.

Under new anti-Covid rules, visitors from the UK intending to enter France must present a negative PCR or antigen test not more than 24 hours old before travel.

The moves come amid a recent wave of infections in the UK caused by the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus that is dominant in the UK.

On Friday, UK authorities announced they would continue to impose quarantine on fully-vaccinated people entering the UK from France, while lifting the restriction for the fully-vaccinated entering the UK from all other Amber List countries.

The decision, announced without warning, means that UK residents returning to the UK after a holiday in France, will still have to quarantine for 10 days, even when fully-vaccinated.

It had been expected that from 19 July, no such quarantine would be necessary for the fully-inoculated.

Beta variant risk?

The British government cited concerns about the presence in France of the Beta variant, originally called the South African variant, as an explanation for the decision.

However, the move was greeted with surprise by health chiefes in France where the Delta variant is dominant.

French Consul unconvinced

Guillaume Bazard, the French Consul General in London, remarked in a sardonic tweet that the scientific evidence for the decision was not exactly blinding.

He illustrated his comment with graphs showing the predominance of the Delta variant and relatively low presence of the Beta variant.

In Britain, Professor John Edmonds of the UK government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies told The Guardian newspaper on Saturday that even though it was less contagious than the Delta variant, the Beta variant posed a threat.

There are fears that it might be more resistant than the Delta variant to the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which was widely used in the UK.

The decision not to end compulsory quarantine for people entering the UK from France came just days before today's so-called Freedom Day in the UK.

Caution on Freedom Day

As from Monday, nearly all anti-Covid measures in England such as compulsory mask-wearing and social distancing will end. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will make their own decisions on the matter shortly.

Johnson says he is keen to move to a climate where people take responsibility for their own decisions rather than following government rules.

Nevertheless, amid criticism for the "Freedom Day" decision, Johnson and the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, have advised people to exercise caution, as the Delta variant continues to spread.

Johnson in self-isolation

Johnson is himself in self-isolation after being identified as a contact case following Javid's positive test for the coronavirus.

Javid, who is fully-vaccinated, says he has only mild symptoms.

Johnson was hospitalised in 2020 with the virus and has since been vaccinated against it.

He originally said he did not plan to self-isolate but would instead take part in a pilot scheme involving daily testing. Following a public outcry he backtracked and said he would self-isolate.

Originally published on RFI

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